People love to collect things. Personally, we love to collect empty bottles and expensive bar receipts, but others have much more in-depth interests. Vader's Piotr Wiwczarek is an avid collector of military memorabilia from World War II – much more intense than your grandad's stamp collection. We caught up with him to find out what it's all about...
What is it you find so fascinating about military memorabilia/paraphernalia?
“The same reasons people find other collectibles fascinating. One person likes postcards, beer labels and dolls while the other prefers medals, helmets and old documents.
Military conflicts and corresponding uniforms follow humanity since the very beginning. Wars were – and still are – changing our history and ourselves. They represent the most extreme emotions and behaviour. Extreme conditions can change us, they can make us act like we’d never have expected.
In such a material world, where success is the only motivation to act – you may feel the times of ideas. The ideas, which made people create or kill in the same passion. It makes you reflect on what ‘death’ means in your own life and how ‘life’ can be priceless.”
What is your most prized possession?
“Original items are priceless. I focus mostly on high-quality replicas, as I’m a member of a re-enactment group. If you want to show the past, you should look like a person from back then, not a manikin from a war museum. I own original medals, some equipment and uniform parts. I also collect original documents, manuals and dog tags.”
**How did you get involved in re-enactment? **
“Vader made it happen – one of my friends from Gdansk linked me with a group. Then I put my winter uniform on and we met in the south of Poland on a Battle Of The Bulge reconstruction. That was over ten years ago, I was a rookie back then. Now I am a veteran in Pomerania 1945 and in position of Master Sergeant – I’m responsible for recruiting and training.”
Have you ever gone ‘too far’ while re-enacting?
“There is never ‘too far’ if you really want to show the reality of war. As re-enactors we show ‘a battle’ rather than the atrocities at the open events or national meetings. There is a lot of children or veterans, for whom such a ‘flash back’ might be too emotional. In movies we are able to be closer to historical truth.”
We also heard that you build replica tanks?
“It’s not me who built the tank. I wish I had a proper workshop, as well as the money and time to build a tank replica. The Panther tank, which you can see in The Last Panther, was made by Gryf museum. It is not easy to build replica German tanks because of the very unusual and hard to rebuild chassis.
All German tanks that you can see in movies like Saving Private Ryan were based on modern tanks. Our Panther is built on a Soviet T-55 chassis and is fully functional. You can’t just drive it, you can operate the turret and shoot MGs or the main gun too! It is, of course, firing blanks.
The replica took part in the movie Miasto 44 which is very dramatic picture of Warsaw Uprising in 1944. This great movie will be ready for August 2014 – which is the 70 year anniversary of those hard times.”
Have you ever driven a real tank? And did you blow anything up?
“I wasn’t driving but I was shooting the main gun as tank commander in a historical reconstruction of fighting in Warsaw Old Town in 1944. One day the day will come and I will move those 50 tons of steel.”
Is it just World War II you’re interested in, or all of military history?
“I only focus on World War II. All conflicts are interesting but that’d just be too much. When I started, war machines and weapons were my only point of interest. I was building models. The real hunger for knowledge and philosophical aspect came later on – my hobby has turned into a real passion.”
What is your holy grail? What item do you really want to own?
“I want to own an original panzer uniform – the real one that smells oil and blood. Once I held one from 8th Panzer Regiment from the African theatre of war. That was in Japan, when we were visiting that beautiful land for the first time. However, the price was far beyond reality.”
What metallers would you want in your army?
“I have best Company of Heroes at the moment. However , my ‘army’ is open to all with passion to kill – on stage only, of course…”
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